Monday, 16 December 2013

Let It Snow Books: Guest Post by Jax Garren + Giveaway

Today I'm very excited to welcome author Jax Garren at this year's Let It Snow Books event. Her Tales of the Underlight series is one of my favorite series ever so it comes as no surprise that Jax is here for the second year in a row. So let's give her a warm welcome and get some ideas for our Holidays menu :)

I’m so pleased to be back this year for Let It Snow! Thanks to Anna for the invitation. Today I’m talking about one of my favorite topics--FOOD--with a recipe for sticky toffee pudding, my favorite holiday dessert, done gluten free! (Dairy free and vegan options included, too, just in case.) I’m also giving away a copy of my newest holiday novella, The Elf and the Ice Princess.

My husband Scott and I both love to cook and have spent many a happy day together preparing a feast for friends and family. However, when I was diagnosed with a condition which forced me to cut out many of my favorite foods--no tomatoes? no yeast-raised goodies? no vinegar? no chocolate??--for a while I despaired over all the changes we had to make. But Scott, like any perfect romance hero, rolled with the punches with plenty of hugs and smiles, and together we’ve learned how to still take joy in cooking while accommodating my finicky health.

This year we’re hosting a holiday dinner on the solstice. There will be toasting, a bonfire, and plenty of food--most of which I can even eat! In the comments I’d love to hear what you’re eating for your holiday dinner. Maybe you’ll allow me to live vicariously through all my old favorite foods on your menus. ;)

Appetizers: Charcuterie plate with gluten free crackers (Our butcher does in house curing and we live within walking distance of a cheese shop. I can’t eat most of this--no cured meats or aged cheeses for me--but our guests usually appreciate it!)

Soup: Butternut Squash and Apples (We get amazing butternut squash every year from a local farm and this is my favorite way to fix it!)

Main Course: Baked ham in home brine (Brining may be the best cooking discovery I’ve ever made. I will say, overhauling my diet has given me an opportunity to learn a lot of cool things!)

Sides: Pot-luck! (We have amazing friends who are willing to cook around me.)

Dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Last year I commented that I was looking for a gluten-free version of sticky toffee pudding that lived up to my expectations of a favorite dessert. Well….I’ve been working on one, and I think I have a winner! It’s based on a recipe I found here with some modifications.

GF Sticky Toffee Pudding
(can be modified for dairy free. For vegan, do the dairy free version, don’t swap out honey, and make the egg substitution included below)

1 ½ cps pitted dates, roughly chopped
Boiling water (about ½ cp)
2 ½ cp blanched almond flour (this is not the same as almond meal; I order my almond flour online because I can’t find the real thing even in high end grocery stores)
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
8 tbl butter (½ cp coconut oil or ½ cp grapeseed oil for dairy free)
½ cp maple syrup (can be all or partially subbed with honey--unless you’re making it vegan!)
3 eggs (for vegan, instead of eggs mix 3 tbl flaxseed with 9 tbl water, and let it sit for at least 2 minutes before using)
⅓ cp cream (almond or coconut milk for dairy free)
2 tsp vanilla

¾ cp sugar (I use palm sugar but regular works!)
¾ cp butter (for dairy free, use 1 ¼ cps coconut milk)
¾ cp cream (omit for dairy free)
Splash of brandy, rum or bourbon (optional)

Chopped walnuts for serving

12 cup muffin tin
food processor
Small sauce pan

1. Pour boiling water over the dates and let soak.
2. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a muffin tin (or use coconut/grapeseed oil).
3. Combine the dry ingredients (almond flour, baking soda, and spices) in a bowl and stir.
4. Beat the butter and maple syrup in the food processor until the consistency changes to creamy. Add eggs and process until incorporated. Add cream, vanilla and dates and process until smooth.
5. Add the dry ingredients into the processor and process until just combined.
6. Pour batter into muffin tin (should make 12 muffins) and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out almost clean. (Almond flour baking is much more forgiving than wheat flour, so they’ll taste good in a pretty wide range--just don’t burn them!)
7. Let cool while you make the sauce. (The cakes can be made up to a day ahead and stored in the fridge in an airtight container. For best results, get them up to room temp or a little warmer before serving.)

1. Put the sugar and butter (or coconut milk) in a saucepan over high heat, stirring constantly.
2. When the sugar dissolves, give it a another minute or two to cook (the flavor changes the longer it cooks).
3. Take it off the heat and add the cream and alcohol (if using). Stir until combined.

Plate the muffins, pour sauce over each one and top with walnut crumbles. If you manage to have leftover muffins, they make a great breakfast in the morning warmed in the microwave with a pat of butter instead of toffee sauce.

Jax Garren is descended from Valkyries and Vikings (she’s part Swedish) but was raised a small town girl in the Texas Hill Country. She graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in English and a minor in Latin and stayed in Austin to teach high school. During her eight years in public education she was in a riot, broke up fights, had cops storm her class with guns drawn…and met the most amazing young people who taught her more about life and hope than she taught them about any school subject.

Jax believes in happily ever afters. She married her real life hero, a handsome engineer who is saving the world through clean energy technology. Her heroine is Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the perfect blend of tough and feminine. Jax blames Marion for her dream of traveling to Nepal to experience Himalayan palaces and monasteries and to drink yak butter tea.
Jax loves meeting new people, so if you see her out and about say hello! She’s always happy to raise a glass with her readers (or anyone else) in a toast to courage, adventure, and love.

How Beauty Saved the Beast

by Jax Garren
Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.

The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.

Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him—or risk losing him forever…

Buy it at: Amazon - B&N - Goodreads

Jax is generously offering a digital copy of The Elf and The Ice Princess to one lucky commenter!

All you have to do to enter is fill the rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway is open to everyone and ends 4 January 2014! 

Good Luck!

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